Volunteering in Small Town Nova Scotia
by Terry Gillis
The Village of Whycocomagh recently celebrated Christmas in the Village. This is the fifth year for this tradition and each year it continues to grow. Lindsey Munro, an employee of AA Munro Insurance and our founder Alcorn Munro’s grand-niece, motivates the rest of us for a hectic and successful week of activities that celebrates Christmas, family and community. Businesses participate alongside of countless volunteers. There are two dozen floats in the parade, lots of children at the Christmas party, and on it goes—pretty amazing for such a small town. Then we turn around and start planning for our Summer Festival, which had been going strong for over forty years.
These two activities are good examples of how small town Nova Scotia works on the backbone of its volunteers. As a long-time resident of Whycocomagh, Alcorn knew that if we want to live a fulfilling life in rural Nova Scotia, we need to be resourceful and resilient and as community members. This same theme also weaves its way through our company, which bears his name. Management, following Alcorn’s values, encourages each of us to be productive and tough when market conditions and other external forces make us dig deeper. We usually come out just a little bit stronger by combining our various strengths.
Most of us across the province volunteer throughout our communities to help make them work. For some, it might simply be cooking or baking for the local church, or offering a drive to a senior, while for others it might mean volunteering with minor hockey or serving on a board. Some like to be given a task and others like to plan and organize and find ways to make improvements. Some focus on one or two roles, while others are involved in many organizations.
Of all the organizations for which I serve or have served, the new Whycocomagh Waterfront Centre has become the most important one for me and my volunteer hours. A few years ago, we in Whycocomagh realized we really had no central gathering place outside of the school. So we decided to renovate the local Legion, which had fallen into disrepair. We worked with the strengths of a board of volunteers to apply for grants, oversee the construction, organize fundraisers, and a long list of other activities. We adapted to the needs of the community, just as any business has to do.
The activities at the Centre are strictly driven by volunteers. We maintain and operate the Centre to provide children’s events and parties, workshops, weekly jam sessions, weekly yoga, twice weekly walking and card play for seniors, dances, pubs, concerts, trivia, art shows, and markets. We hold hiking and snowshoeing activities. We host many family days, such as our annual Winterlude and Canada Day. We are involved in Kitchenfest and Celtic Colours. We assist with community rentals for reunions, weddings, birthday parties, and meetings. And we are the launching area for the Blueway Trail for the Trans Canada Trails. We continuously seek ways to pull the community together while focusing on the natural beauty of the area and talents of its people.
Just like AA Munro’s mission statement that focuses on being community-based, the mission statement of the Centre focuses on promoting involvement and fostering community togetherness. As with one’s workplace, some days we experience frustrations. But other days are totally rewarding—maybe through something as simple as seeing a child’s eyes light up when they see Santa arrive for a party, or through watching an elderly veteran tap their foot to the guitars at a Thursday evening jam.
The Whycocomagh Waterfront Centre epitomizes the values that my husband and I hold in chosing to work and live in rural Cape Breton, which is, as the sign on the Centre reads, “Where People and Nature Connect”.